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Disability inclusion benefits us all! Making the business case for inclusion

Written by Lieke Scheewe, policy advisor & coordinator at Dutch Coalition for Disability and Development

Today, December 3, is World Disability Day – a great day to celebrate the value of human diversity! That’s why the Dutch Coalition on Disability and Development (DCDD) is making a case today for the value of a disability inclusive society, by launching a ‘social business case’.

Over 1 billion people in the world have some form of disability according to WHO, that’s 1 in 7. At least 80% of this billion are estimated by the UN to live in low- and middle-income countries. Due to the barriers they face in accessing services and jobs, persons with disabilities make up a disproportionate percentage of the poorest sections of the community. Not only people themselves – but societies at large – are paying a high price for exclusion. What can investments in a more inclusive society bring us?

More resilient people and households

Catherine from Kenya is partially deaf-blind. She received support from an NGO to learn how to use the screenreader programme JAWS, to know her rights and to feel confident about her abilities. Her vocational training institute received support on how to make their building and their teaching methods more inclusive. Thanks to the removal of these barriers, Catherine completed her certificate and is now able to invest in the future of her son: “I love my new job in customer care; talking is one of my hobbies! I am doing something I am trained in, and I am earning a good salary to support my family. My son is going to start kindergarten next year, and I will be able to pay his school fees with no struggle.”

Profitable private sectors and sustainable public sectors

Still, most children with disabilities do not attend school. If education systems would become more accessible and inclusive, this would have a major impact on individual lives and communities. Research in the Philippines reveals that inclusive education raises future adult wages of a child, by more than 25%. Evidence from Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal and the Philippines shows that the returns on investing in education for people with disabilities are two to three times higher than for persons without disabilities. The International Labour Organisation estimates that disability exclusion from the labour market comes at a national cost of 3 to 7 percent of  GDP. Fortunately, there is an increasing realisation among employers that promoting workplace diversity is good for business. Reasonable workplace adjustments and supportive policies are often less costly than initially thought and can also benefit workers without disabilities as they promote more inclusive work environments. “Differently-abled employees bring in a diversity of thought to the organisation, and hiring them is a business imperative for us, not a Corporate Social Responsibility activity,” said DP Singh, vice-president of Human Resources at IBM India/South Asia.

The Bangladesh garment industry opens its doors

Disability exclusion from the labour market costs the Bangladesh government $891 million a year. Hopefully this is about to change, now that the garment industry has opened its doors to workers with a disability. As a growing industry, garment factories are in continuous demand for skilled workers. This already provided opportunity for many female domestic workers to enter the formal labour market, and it has now opened such opportunities to people with a disability as well. This change was triggered by the Rana Plaza disaster in 2014, which caused permanent injuries in the lives of many garment workers. The industry, together with local disability organisations and support from the Bangladesh and German governments, has established an Inclusive Job Centre and a Helpline in order to bridge the gap between employers and (potential) employees. So far, 250 factories have taken measures to make their workspaces accessible and inclusive, and 2500 people with disabilities have been supported in gaining skills and finding a job.


Ramp-up investment in disability inclusion!

Good practices such as the one in Bangladesh are starting to pop up in many countries. Yet, we’re only at the beginning of seeing real change. If we aim to achieve the global goals by 2030, it’s high time that governments, businesses and development organisations really start to prioritize investments in accessibility, participation, support measures and disability data. As stated by the UN: Persons with disabilities, as both beneficiaries and agents of change, can fast track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development and promote a resilient society for all”. We can no longer afford to miss out on the valuable contributions people with a disability make to society! The success of our fight against poverty and inequality depends on it.

All quotes and research references above can be found in the full article, ‘A Social Business Case on Disability Inclusion in Development’. To download this social business case and the accompanying infographic, please visit http://www.dcdd.nl/category/news/. Follow us on twitter @dcdd_nl.


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